PM confirms Covid tier 3 restrictions for Greater Manchester as talks fail

Greater Manchester will be moved into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Thursday, Boris Johnson has confirmed, as he refused to say whether a £60m offer of support for the region remains on the table following failed negotiations.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the prime minister did not specify how much support the region would get. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, had sought £90m in support for businesses and staff affected by the measures, dropping the request to £65m, but ministers offered £60m and eventually ended the talks without a deal.

Quick guide

What are the three tiers of England’s Covid lockdown system?

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Tier one – medium
  • The “rule of six” applies, meaning socialising in groups larger than six people is prohibited whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work and are not counted as being part of the six-person limit.
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.
  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered by phone or online.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, and – if the rule of six is followed – indoors.
Tier two – high
  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.
  • The rule of six continues to apply for socialising outdoors, for instance in a garden or public space like a park or beach.
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.
  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered online or by phone.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with those they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport.
  • Travel is permitted to amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but people are advised to reduce the number of journeys where possible.
Tier three – very high
  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody they do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting, private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.
  • The rule of six continues to apply to outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens or sports venues.
  • Pubs and bars are only permitted to remain open to operate as restaurants, in which case alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but household mixing is not permitted.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people attending (15 and 30 respectively) but wedding receptions are not allowed.
  • The rules for exercise classes and organised sport are the same as in tier 2. They can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport. However, in Merseyside, gyms were ordered to close when it entered tier 3.
  • Travelling outside a very high alert level area or entering a very high alert level area should be avoided other than for things such as work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if travelling through as part of a longer journey.
  • Residents of a tier 3 area should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, while people who live in a tier 1 or tier 2 area should avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area.

Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

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Johnson said only that Greater Manchester would receive £22m, but this is believed to be for extra local test-and-trace measures. It is understood that talks will continue over the extra support amid reports No 10 might now reduce the £60m offer.

“Over the last 10 days we tried to get a joint approach with local leaders in Greater Manchester,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, agreement wasn’t reached. I do regret this. As I said last week, it would have been better, and we would have a better chance of defeating the virus if we work together.”

He said the government had made a “generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses”, calling this proportionate to amounts given to Merseyside and Lancashire, the two regions already under tier 3 restrictions, under which pubs, bars and other businesses must close.

“The mayor didn’t accept this unfortunately,” Johnson said. “And given the public health situation, I must now proceed with moving Greater Manchester to the very high alert level [tier 3]. Not to act would put Manchester’s NHS and the lives of many of Manchester’s residents at risk.”

Before Johnson spoke, the deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, showed data slides illustrating a slight fall in new coronavirus case numbers among younger people, but a notable rise for older groups, particularly in the north-west of England.

It was the rise in cases among the over-60s “that really worries us most”, Van-Tam said.

Earlier, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced that talks with Greater Manchester had ended after several hours of fraught negotiations came down to a dispute over £5m in funding, or £1.78 for each resident.

At a press conference in Manchester afterwards, Burnham blamed the government for having “walked away” from negotiations, saying there had not been sufficient support offered to help local people amid the new restrictions.

Burnham said civic leaders were prepared to reduce their bid for financial support to £65m, which he called the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship”, but that the government would only go to £60m.

The Guardian

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